The rules for work are changing. We’re being judged by a new yardstick: not just by how smart we are, or by our training and expertise, but also by how well we handle ourselves and each other. This yardstick is increasingly applied in choosing who will be hired and who will not, who will be let go and who retained, who passed over and who promoted.

The new rules predict who is most likely to become a star performer and who is most prone to derailing. And, no matter what field we work in currently, they measure the traits that are crucial to our marketability for future jobs.

These rules have little to do with what we were told was important in school; academic abilities are largely irrelevant to this standard. The new measure takes for granted having enough intellectual ability and technical know-how to do our jobs; it focuses instead on personal qualities, such as initiative and empathy, adaptability and persuasiveness.

This is no passing fad, nor just the management nostrum of the moment. The data that argue for taking it seriously are based on studies of tens of thousands of working people, in callings of every kind. The research distills with unprecedented precision which qualities mark a star performer. And it demonstrates which human abilities make up the greater part of the ingredients for excellence at work – most especially for leadership.

If you work in a large organization, even now you are probably being evaluated in terms of these capabilities, though you may not know it. If you are applying for a job, you are likely to be scrutinized through this lens, though, again, no one will tell you so explicitly. Whatever your job, understanding how to cultivate these capabilities can be essential for success in your career.

If you are part of a management team, you need to consider whether your organization fosters these competences or discourages them. To the degree your organizational climate nourishes these competencies; your organization will be more effective and productive. You will maximize your group’s intelligence, the synergistic interaction of every person’s best talents.

If you work for a small organization or for yourself, your ability to perform at peak depends to a very great extent on your having these abilities – though almost certainly you were never taught them in school. Even so, your career will depend, to a greater or lesser extent, on how ell you have mastered these capacities.

In a time with no guarantees of job security, when the very concept of a “job” is rapidly being replaced by “portable skills,” these are prime qualities that make and keep us employable. Talked about loosely for decades under a variety of names, from “character” and “personality” to “soft skills” and “competence,” there is at last a more precise understanding of these human talents, and a new name for them: emotional intelligence.

— From Working With Emotional Intelligence